In the seventh episode of the second season of Babylon 5, Londo’s wives arrive on the station; Talia’s ex-husband does, too, and CHAOS REIGNS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For manipulation, gaslighting, consent
At least two-thirds of this episode is what I’d consider “lighter” fare, and thus, this kinda felt like a break from the emotionally-heavy episodes I’ve seen in this batch. Not all of it, though, because WOW, I REALLY HATE MATTHEW STONER. So, we’ll start easy and move to the more complicated plot.
YES. I LOVE ALL OF THIS. I have said this before, but I’m a sucker for science fiction stories that include a non-human learning to be human or at least to understand it. In Delenn’s case, that attempt at understanding is incredibly personal, given that she’s transformed into a hybrid of a human and a Minbari. As I said on video, the last episode focused more on the cultural and social challenges that Delenn faced. This one, however, dealt with some of the physical ones. And through it all, she has Ivanova by her side, AND I LOVE IT SO VERY MUCH. There’s something so sweet and tender about Ivanova teaching Delenn about how to car for her hair, something she has never had to do when she was all Minbari. Haircare is so drastically different from person to person and from culture to culture, so Delenn’s scenes were a pure expression of cultural exchange. Ivanova shared what she knew with Delenn, and it came from a genuine, caring place.
Also, I was correct in assuming that Delenn now menstruates, right? Oh, that is gonna be a huge thing for her, but I’m glad Ivanova is there to help her out.
You know what I’d like to see? A science fiction story that does polyamory or polygamy, but it’s not a man with multiple wives. That always seems to be the go-to for SF at large, and I’d really like to see it explored without it hinting at male fantasies. Which isn’t to say that what is onscreen is necessarily a fantasy, but rather that this trope can often fall into that kind of depiction. For me, Londo’s three wives—Daggair, Mariel, and Timov—were interesting characters, but it’s what they represented that intrigued me the most. One wife was greedy, both sought power, and the third remained exactly the same the whole time. Timov’s certainty is captivating because, at all times in this episode, she remained honest. She told Mollari how she felt, she never shied away from the truth, and I believe that’s ultimately why he chose her but divorced the other two. As he puts it, he’ll always know where she stands, and I think he respects that sort of integrity. Never once did she lie about herself or her emotions, and she never tried to appeal to Mollari in order to get him to keep her.
What an unfortunate name, y’all. It was a little distracting! But that aside, YIKES, WOW, WHAT A CREEPY FUCKING CHARACTER. Keith Szarabajka plays him with a slimy sense of confidence that oozes off every word that Stoner utters throughout “Soul Mates.” Even if there weren’t all these hints that he was hiding something from the people around him, I would not have trusted him in any way. Ugh, his manner was just so gross, so props to both Szarabajka and the script for making him so despicable. But why do that? Why make him slimy and arrogant and terrible? Wouldn’t his manipulation have worked better if he’d been nicer?
My take on this is that Stoner’s arrogance is part of the man’s shtick. He’s open about the fact that he is an asshole and rude, yet he never seems to assume that he’s not going to get exactly what he wants. That certainty exists in practically every interaction he has here: when he’s selling the Centauri artifact he found; when he’s interrogated by Garibaldi and makes REALLY GROSS AND INAPPROPRIATE comments about Talia and their past together; and he’s the worst when he’s finally face-to-face with Talia. He is so open about how much he doesn’t care, how clever he thinks he is, and how sure he is that he’ll get away with anything he wants. That assuredness, though, is what makes his empathic skill so horribly creepy. We know he’s terrible, and so, after Talia has her conversation with him about leaving and getting “cured,” we expect that Talia will continue to ignore him.
NOPE. Instead, she’s very, very suddenly about to leave with Stoner. It’s so jarring that I thought, for a moment, that my version of the episode had omitted a vital scene. Perhaps he said something to her that finally convinced her to leave the Psi Corps, and combined with her experience over the last few episodes, it wouldn’t have been a huge surprise.
EXCEPT I ASSUMED SHE WOULD MAKE THAT DECISION FOR HERSELF. So we’re presented with something that feels out-of-character for Talia, but that’s the point. It’s what convinces Garibaldi to set up a trap for Stoner, and it’s how we learn the truth: the same Psi Corps experiments that pushed Jason Ironheart gave Stoner an empathic ability rather than a telepathic one. And he’s so, so fucking creepy about it, y’all, and it puts his behavior into the context I needed to understand it. He could just make a person feel what he wanted them to feel, thus he moved about the galaxy certain that he could escape any situation. It’s so awful! He would bend a person’s emotional reality with his mind, so it’s like… a really extreme form of gaslighting? Except maybe not even that, because a person wouldn’t even question their reality because they would simply believe Stoner’s.
UGH. I NEVER WANT TO SEE HIM AGAIN.
The video for “Soul Mates” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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